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The Life of Ryan: Caretaker Manager - Review of ITV documentary on Ryan Giggs


Ryan Giggs who only recently hung up his boots as player.

Ryan Giggs who only recently hung up his boots as player.

Ryan Giggs who only recently hung up his boots as player.

There is a compellingly awkward flashback in the slick Life of Ryan: Caretaker Manager documentary that shows Ryan Giggs sitting next to under-fire Manchester United manager David Moyes ahead of a Champions League quarter-final against Bayern Munich.

Giggs' presence on the shoulder of the beleaguered Moyes, as he floundered in the wake of the recently retired Sir Alex Ferguson, was presumably designed to show a public show of unity between United's longest serving player and a manager, who many already suspected was out of his depth and heading for the exit door.

Giggs smiles and offers a joke about his lack of game time under Moyes, but is then silenced by a question asking him whether he would like to become Manchester United's manager one day.

Giggs' expression goes from jovial to stony in the blink of an eye. He does not reply, takes an extravagant sip from a glass of water in front of him and avoids eye contact with anything other than the ceiling. Moyes' cannot be seen. A press officer intervenes, reminding those present that only questions about the forthcoming match are allowed.

It is a clever piece of editing in an intriguing documentary from Fulwell 73, the production company behind the acclaimed Manchester United, Class of 92 film and the excellent ITV documentary First Among Equals: The Laurie Cunningham story.

The production team benefited from their involvement in the Class of 92, as they have clearly earned the trust of Giggs, as well as David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt as well as Phil and Gary Neville, who all offer their views on Giggs' managerial credentials.

Sir Alex Ferguson, Rio Ferdinand and Michael Carrick also make insightful contributions, helping to paint a fuller a picture of one of the most recognisable football players on the planet, who most will feel they know him a little better after watching this.

A few weeks after that Bayern Munich press conference, Moyes had been dismissed after only a few months at Old Trafford and Giggs, 24 years after he made his debut as a player, is reflecting on the announcement he has been asked to become caretaker manager until the end of the season.

"Who turns down the chance to manage Manchester United?" Giggs offers as an explanation for accepting the role.

Nobody, of course, just ask Moyes. He probably knew that whoever replaced Ferguson would find it impossible to live up to his incredible feats, but he also recognised he could not turn down the chance to try.

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What follows covers only a few weeks in the life of Giggs, as he wrestles with the highs and lows of football management for the first time.

It is not the first documentary to illustrate it, but what shines through is just how gruelling life as a manager is. After a thrashing of Norwich City in his first game, Giggs is elated but exhausted. After a shock home defeat to Sunderland he is distraught and looks even more drained of vitality. Football management does not look like it is good for your health.

The impression left by this behind the scenes glimpse into those dramatic final few weeks of the season at Old Trafford, is that Giggs is a United manager in waiting.

His love for the club is obvious, his cool, calculating manner comes across every time he speaks. Giggs was a joy to watch as a player, but underneath the slight winger's frame, there is a steely core. Ferguson knew it, his team-mates knew it and we see proof of it for the first time.

Giggs did not stab Moyes in the back, he did not agitate for his dismissal, but he was a constant threat to the Scot all the same. What strikes you after watching this documentary is that Giggs' presence may also eventually prove uncomfortable for Louis van Gaal.

The Welshman was not ready to become United manager this summer, but Van Gaal will know his No 2 wants to be No 1 eventually. How the Dutchman handles him, how he makes best use of a man Beckham claims "loves Manchester United more than anyone else" will be almost as interesting as the players he signs this summer.

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